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Senegal: UN experts urge respect of fundamental freedoms ahead of elections

19 March 2024

GENEVA (19 March 2024) – UN experts* today urged authorities in Senegal to ensure that political parties, journalists and human rights defenders can exercise their rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression during the electoral period.

The experts previously raised concerns with the Government about the prosecution and detention of opposition leaders and their supporters. They also welcomed the release of over 500 detainees amongst whom opposition leaders Ousmane Sonko and Bassirou Diomaye Diakhar Faye last week, even if it is only days before presidential elections scheduled to be held on 24 March 2024.

“We urge authorities to uphold the fundamental freedoms necessary for an inclusive and meaningful democratic process, and end restrictions on public freedoms that the country has witnessed in recent years,” the experts said.

They noted that Senegal had witnessed unprecedented mass protests across the country, since March 2021, in response to the arrest and trial of opposition leaders. “Since then, several opposition leaders and supporters, journalists and human rights defenders have reportedly been arrested, killed or injured as result of excessive use of force by law enforcement,” the experts said.

“Senegalese authorities appear to have resorted to frequent restrictions on public freedoms, bans on protests and temporary internet shutdowns,” the experts said, pointing to the negative impact on the exercise of the right to freedom of expression and peaceful demonstrations by members of the political opposition and civil society.

“Arrests and bans on demonstrations are dangerously restricting the civic and political space that is an essential part of any democratic society,” the experts said.

They stressed that the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association are essential components of any democracy, allowing citizens of all ages to express their political opinions and creating the conditions for dialogue between the opposition and the majority that is essential to preserve the country’s democratic gains.

"We urge Senegalese authorities to create conditions conducive to the exercise of public freedoms, and in particular the rights of peaceful assembly, association and expression during the electoral period," the experts said.

*The experts: Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Ms. Priya Gopalan (Chair-Rapporteur); Mr. Matthew Gillett (Vice-Chair on Communications); Ms. Miriam Estrada-Castillo, and Mr. Mumba Malila - Working Group on arbitrary detention; Ms. Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the protection and promotion of freedom of opinion and expression; Ms. Alice Jill Edwards, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Hon. Rémy Ngoy Lumbu, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN human rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organisation. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

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